The White House is certainly not a misnomer for Cayman’s newest and most elegant waterfront venue, located in Bodden Town, but it is shades of blue that one recalls most strongly after a long, relaxing visit to the site.

Walk into the traditional style beachfront mansion, and these shades envelop you. The sky, with its calming blue, and the sea, in its vibrant turquoise are there, right through the magnificent Georgian-style arches framing the scene.

The White House is the place to go for a fine meal or drink. It is the place to go to lounge on an unpopulated white sand beach under an umbrella, take a dip in the pool, or snorkel or kayak in the sea. It’s the place to take family and friends whether you have a group of two or two hundred. In short, it is a place you want to visit, and a place where you will want to linger.

Photo by Stephen Clarke

The Gatsby Wing, with its robin’s-egg blue painted walls and meticulously crafted wooden arches, is made up of four interconnecting rooms that all open out to the pool terrace.

And it is a place that might not have been, without the interest and vision of Jamaican entrepreneur Ernest “Ernie” Smatt and The White House Managing Director Padriac Linnane.

Years ago, Mr. Smatt was looking to develop a venue to help support Cayman’s “Go East Initiative,” which aims to draw visitors to Cayman’s eastern districts and create more tourism revenue for the districts of Bodden Town, East End, and North Side.

There are many tourism opportunities in the eastern districts, from Pedro St. James to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and Rum Point. But most of those visitors who do venture east will see Bodden Town in only a fleeting moment, as their car or bus zips through the quaint, historic town. What would entice them to stop?

“In Cayman, you’ve got this unpolished jewel which is Bodden Town, the original capital of the islands,” Mr. Linnane said.

It’s an area where, Mr. Linnane imagines, tourists could amble down the narrow, winding roads, exploring roadside markets, arts and crafts shops, and street cafes offering Caymanian-made goods and foods. It’s a place where visitors would stop and say, “Ah. This is Cayman.”

“When you go to the east end of the island, you start to really get the feeling of being in the true Caribbean,” Mr. Linnane said. “Visitors can breathe it, smell it, and see it.”

Photo by Stephen Clarke

Inviting white chairs may entice you to linger in the hall with a glass of champagne, but the sound of the ocean will soon lure you outdoors.

However, like much of the island, Bodden Town was ravaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The storm did not discriminate between the smaller structures along the coast and waterfront mansions, and The White House was badly damaged.

Given that many features of the beach mansion were custom made, it would have been much easier – and far less costly – for Mr. Smatt to build a new venue from the ground up, but The White House was too unique and had too storied a history to forsake.

It was originally owned, and frequently lived in, by famed Las Vegas casino-owner Ralph Englestad. He would fly friends into Cayman on matching 727s, reconfigured to seat only 16 passengers, and host them at his opulent 21,000 sq. ft. estate.

The White House’s history recalls the former glamour and exclusivity of the Caribbean, sometimes forgotten in this era of quick cruise ship stops where tennis-shoe clad tourists explore chain restaurants and duty free shops.

The White House is a venue that provides a kind of antidote to the furied shuttling of visitors between crowded touristic destinations that, while certainly entertaining, oftentimes feel as if they could be anywhere in the Caribbean. For repeat visitors to the island, and residents, The White House offers a fresh experience.

“The White House is not meant to be a mass market experience,” Mr. Linnane said. It is offered on a number of cruises as a beach excursion, but it is a bit more exclusive than other excursion options, he said.

Cruise ship passengers who do choose The White House as an excursion can enjoy watersports like snorkeling and kayaking, offered on site, lounge under an umbrella in a comfortable beach chair on the site’s white sand beach, or take a refreshing dip in the swimming pool.

Overnight visitors and residents can enjoy the same amenities, or stop in for a meal on the 6000 sq. ft. deck that juts 100 feet out over the ironshore and Caribbean Sea. Repeat visitors to the islands may be delighted to recognize the unique bar that is the centerpiece of the deck – taken from the Beach Club when it was being redeveloped into The WaterColours.

Photo By Stephen Clarke
Photo By Stephen Clarke

A wooden path across the white sand beach allows for a grand entrance onto the terrace.

While The White House had five bedrooms and six baths when Mr. Engelstad lived there, the interior of the venue today is a free-flowing space ideal for entertaining.

If you don’t feel like a movie star driving through the gates up the circular driveway to the covered entrance, you will after walking into the Great Room, a luxurious hall with high, chandeliered ceilings, handcrafted woodwork, and marble floors. Inviting white chairs may entice you to linger in the hall with a glass of champagne, but the sound of the ocean will soon lure you outdoors.

A wooden path across the white sand beach allows for a grand entrance onto the terrace. Settle in for a meal, perhaps in one of the terraces’ two intimate island cabanas, an ideal setting for romance or celebrations. Thanks to Executive Chef Jiri “George” Zitterbart, the quality of the food matches the magnificent setting.

From the terrace, it’s a stunning view in any direction. To the east is the curving coast of the island, seemingly untouched. The only separation between the vibrant blue sky and the even more vibrantly blue water are the coastline’s casuarina trees, windswept and impressionistic, with their wispy needles like strokes from Monet’s paintbrush.

To the front is calm and clear turquoise water – a “grand staircase” of sorts provides easy access from the end of the deck into the sea – and then crashing waves as the sea meets the barrier reef.

Looking back at the house, you may realize you have missed the elevated poolside upon your grand entrance to the outdoors.  It is a lovely place to relax, with equally stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. Ask a server to bring out a drink that matches the tropical setting or go inside the adjacent “Great Gatsby Wing” to order a classic cocktail from a bar setting that is straight out of the Roaring Twenties.

The Gatsby Wing, with its robin’s-egg blue painted walls and meticulously crafted wooden arches, is made up of four interconnecting rooms that all open out to the pool terrace.

The wing is an ideal meeting location for small groups which may wish to have a part of The White House all to themselves for the evening. Indoors, the wing can comfortably accommodate up to 24 guests, while the swimming pool terrace can accommodate up to 100 guests, making this part of the house an excellent place for corporate meetings, retreats, or private cocktail parties.

Larger groups can be accommodated within the Great Room and on the beach and deck, making The White House an ideal location for grand parties and weddings – easily planned with the help of The White House’s on-site event coordinator.

In a private wing of the house, there is a VIP suite with two bedrooms, enormous en suite bathrooms, and lounge area that can be pre-set with a hospitality bar.

Although the venue already has many unique features, Mr. Linnane says further additions are in the works, with plans for a rum bar, whiskey tasting room, and a temperature-controlled wine room complete with a chef’s table.

Despite its aura of elegance and exclusivity, The White House is far less impenetrable than its namesake.

According to Mr. Linnane, many people are surprised to find that, given the mysteriousness of the venue and its high glamour, it is quite child friendly, reasonably priced, and accessible and welcoming to all who may wish to explore the many offerings on-site.

The White House is a venue unlike any other in Grand Cayman. From its location to its amenities and its ambiance, it offers an unparalleled experience for visitors and residents alike.